Calcification of the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa under ambient and reduced pH

The cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa is one of the few species able to build reef-like structures and a 3-dimensional coral framework in the deep oceans. Furthermore, deep cold-water coral bioherms are likely among the first marine ecosystems to be affected by ocean acidification. Colonies of L. pertusa were collected during a cruise in 2006 to cold-water coral bioherms of the Mingulay reef complex (Hebrides, North Atlantic). Calcium-45 labelling was conducted shortly after sample collection onboard. After this method proved to deliver reliable data, the same experimental approach was used to assess calcification rates and the effect of lowered pH during a~cruise to the Skagerrak (North Sea) in 2007. The highest calcification rates were found in youngest polyps with up to 1% d−1 new skeletal growth and average values of 0.11±0.02% d−1(±S.E.). Lowering the pH by 0.15 and 0.3 units relative to ambient pH resulted in a strong decrease in calcification by 30 and 56%, respectively. The effect of changes in pH on calcification was stronger for fast growing, young polyps (59% reduction) than for older polyps (40% reduction) which implies that skeletal growth of young and fast calcifying corallites will be influenced more negatively by ocean acidification. Nevertheless, L. pertusa revealed a positive net calcification (as indicated by 45Ca incorporation) at an aragonite saturation state (Ωa) below 1, which may indicate some adaptation to an environment that is already relatively low in Ωa compared to tropical or temperate coral bioherms.

Maier C., Hegeman J., Weinbauer M. G. & Gattuso J.-P., 2009. Calcification of the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa under ambient and reduced pH. Biogeosciences Discussions 6: 1875-1901. Article.

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